Shifts in Male Reproductive Tactics over the Life Course in a Polygynandrous Mammal

Joan B. Silk, Veronika Städele, Eila K. Roberts, Linda Vigilant, Shirley C. Strum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


In polygynous and polygynandrous species, there is often intense male-male competition over access to females, high male reproductive skew, and more male investment in mating effort than parenting effort [1]. However, the benefits derived from mating effort and parenting effort may change over the course of males’ lives. In many mammalian species, there is a ∩-shaped relationship between age, condition, and resource holding power as middle-aged males that are in prime physical condition outcompete older males [2–8] and sire more infants [9–12]. Thus, males might derive more benefits from parenting effort than mating effort as they age and their competitive abilities decline [13]. Alternatively, older males may invest more effort in making themselves attractive to females as mates [14]. One way that older males might do so is by developing relationships with females and providing care for their offspring [14, 15]. Savannah baboons provide an excellent opportunity to test these hypotheses. They form stable multi-male, multi-female groups, and males compete for high ranking positions. In yellow and chacma baboons (Papio cynocephalus and P. ursinus), there is a ∩-shaped relationship between male age and dominance rank [12], and high rank enhances paternity success [12, 16]. Lactating female baboons form close ties (“primary associations” hereafter) with particular males [15–20], who support them and their infants in conflicts [15, 19] and buffer their infants from rough handling [20]. Females’ primary associates are often, but not always, the sires of their current infants [16, 20–22].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1716-1720.e3
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 4 2020


  • Papio anubis
  • baboon
  • male reproductive strategy
  • mating effort
  • parenting effort

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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